World No 1 Iga Swiatek is looking to defend her BNP Paribas Open title at Indian Wells but she leads a stacked field for the WTA 1000 tournament in the California desert and finds herself in the same quarter as two other US Open champions in Bianca Andreescu and Emma Raducanu, while her quarter-final opponent could well be Caroline Garcia, the 5th seed.
While many feel the 21-year old Pole is a shoe-in for the title, Aryna Sabalenka, Jessica Pegula and Ons Jabeur will all have a say in the matter, seeded 2-4.
All 32 seeds in the 96-woman draw receive a bye into the 2nd-round, so it will be a few days before we see them in action,
For now, the qualifying rounds are under way, with 4 Brits among the 48 players vying for a spot in the main draw.
On Monday, Katie Boulter and Katie Swan both advanced with wins over Diane Parry and Leolia Jeanjean respectively, while Harriet Dart fell to Caroline Doelhide and Jodie Burrage lost to Kimberley Birrell.
Boulter, the British No 5, upset Parry, the No 18 seed from France, 6-4 6-4, and will meet Ukraine’s Lesia Tsurenko on Tuesday, while Swan, Britain’s No 6, took out another Frenchwoman, Jeanjean, the 17th seed, 6-2 6-1, and will take on top seed Dalma Galfi from Hungary to qualify.
Several seeds fell in the opening qualifying round, but Galfi, Cristina Bucsa, Varvara Gracheva, Rebeka Masarova, Ysaline Bonaventure, Kamila Rakhimova, Tsurenko and Rebecca Peterson were among the top 10 to make it into round 2.
Taking a closer look at the main draw, Swiatek begins her campaign against either American Claire Liu or Belgian Alison van Uytvanck, with Canadian Andreescu also enjoying the 1st-round bye.
Fresh off her maiden Grand Slam win in Australia, 2nd seed Sabalenka will face either Alizé Cornet from France, or Russian Evgeniya Rodina to begin her tournament.
The Belarusian World No 2 has the chance to exact some revenge against potential 4th-round opponent Barbora Krejcikova from the Czech Republic, after the 2021 French Open winner ended her 13-match winning streak in Dubai last month.
In the first quarter, 2 of the 4 former Indian Wells champions in the field could face off in the 3rd-round, with No 32 seed and 2019 champion Andreescu as a potential opponent for Swiatek.
Also in this quarter are Britain’s Raducanu, the 2021 US Open champion, No 12 Liudmila Samsonova from Russia, Brazil’x 13th seed Beatriz Haddad Maia, No 19 Madison Keys from the US, Poland’s No 20 seed Magda Linette, Canada’s Leylah Fernandez, the No 30 seed and American Danielle Collins, the 2022 Australian Open finalist.
Raducanu lost her 2nd-round match to Montenegrin Danka Kovinic at the 2022 Australian Open in a tough 3-setter. Kovinic, who plays a steady game from the baseline, can trouble the world’s best if her serve is firing.
4th-seeded Jabeur from Tunisia heads up the second quarter, making her first appearance since missing the Middle East swing with an injury, and who will play her first match since the Australian Open against either Maryna Zanevska or Lauren Davis in the 2nd-round.
Russia’s 8th seed Daria Kasatkina and the No 10 seed, Elena Rybakina from Kazakstan, could meet in the Round of 16. Kasatkina was the Indian Wells runner-up to Japan’s Naomi Osaka in 2018.
Rybakina, the reigning Wimbledon champion, is guaranteed to face another Grand Slam champion in the 2nd-round in either Sloane Stephens or Sofia Kenin.
Stephens, the 2017 US Open champion, and Kenin, the 2020 Australian Open champion, will square off in an all-American 1st-round match. In their only previous meeting at Toronto last year, Stephens won 7-5 in the third set.
The two other former Indian Wells champions in the field, Belarusian Victoria Azarenka and Paula Badosa from Spain, are in this quarter.
Azarenka, the No 14 seed and the champion here in 2012 and 2016, could potentially meet Jabeur in the Round of 16, while Badosa, the 21st seed who defeated Azarenka in the 2021 Indian Wells final, is a possible 3rd-round opponent for either Rybakina, Stephens or Kenin.
The No 3 seed Jessica Pegula, the top-ranked American, leads the third quarter, and could face Italian Camila Giorgi, who won the Merida title two weeks ago, in the 2nd-round, which would be a rematch of the 2019 Washington DC final, which Pegula won.
The other Top 10 seed in this quarter is No 7 Maria Sakkari from Greece, who was runner-up to Swiatek at Indian Wells last year, and will face the winner of an all-American tussle between Shelby Rogers and Katie Volynets in the 2nd-round.
Also in this quarter are No 11 Veronika Kudermetova from Russia, Czech Petra Kvitova, the 15th seed, former World No 1 Karolina Pliskova, another Czech, 2017 Roland Garros champion Jelena Ostapenko from Latvia, surging American Alycia Parks and rising teen Linda Fruhvirtova, yet another Czech.
In the fourth quarter, Sabalenka, who started the year with a 13-match winning streak before suffering her first loss of the season to eventual champion Barbora Krejcikova in Dubai, could face Croatia’s No 29 seed Donna Vekic in the 3rd, the Monterrey champion who holds a 5-2 head-to-head lead over the Belarusian.
Also in the bottom quarter, No 6 Coco Gauff from the USA and Belinda Bencic, the Swiss 9th seed, might be headed for a showdown in the Round of 16.
Gauff picked up her third career title in Auckland in January, while Bencic has already won two titles this year, in Adelaide and Abu Dhabi.
Looming in Bencic’s portion of the draw is Ukraine’s Marta Kostyuk, who has risen to a career-high World No 40 after winning her first title in Austin on Sunday.
The best of the other 1st-round matches sees Aliaksandra Sasnovich from Belarus against Estonia’s Kaia Kanepi in a duel between two of the game’s premier upset artists, Czech lefty Marketa Vondrousova against Rebecca Marino from Canada, and Karolina Muchova, also from the Czech Republic, taking on Kazakh Yulia Putintseva, who both love to use every inch of the court.
The 2023 BNP Paribas Open is the first WTA 1000 tournament of the Sunshine Double, with the Miami Open closing out the 4-week coast-to-coast swing before the tours turn to clay.
Played on outdoor hard courts at the Indian Wells Tennis Garden over 12 days, the event uses Penn Tour Regular Duty balls and offers a total financial commitment of $8,800,000.
It begins its main draw on Wednesday, with the doubles final being played on Saturday, 18 March and the singles final on Sunday, 19 March.
Swiatek captured her third WTA 1000 title last year at Indian Wells, defeating Maria Sakkari, 6-4 6-1, in the final and was the first leg of the young Pole’s sweep of the Sunshine Double.
In doubles, Xu Yifan & Yang Zhaoxuan defeated Asia Muhammad & Ena Shibahara, 7-5 7-6(4), to win their biggest team title.